C. R. Kumar: ‘We need to send out best team’

When eminent coach C.R. Kumar was asked by the Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu to take charge of the team with hardly 10 days for the Senior men’s National 'B' division hockey championship (in Lucknow), the 56-year-old took up the onerous responsibility with a clear message to the authorities.

“Í am all for promoting youngsters, but it should not be done at the Senior Nationals. For it is a stage where you have to field your best players, and ours was not the best,”   -  K. V. Srinivasan

There are very few coaches in the State who can match the credentials of C.R. Kumar. So, when he was asked by the Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu to take charge of the team with hardly 10 days for the Senior men’s National 'B' division hockey championship (in Lucknow), the 56-year-old took up the onerous responsibility with a clear message to the authorities: “I am not a magician to perform miracles. I will do my best.”

Actually, it was a panic call from HUTN after the State men’s team lost to South Central Railway conceding 10 goals in the Lakshmi Ammal annual tournament in Kovilpatti, last month, which forced the officials to call up Kumar.

Given the circumstances, TN did reasonably well topping Group H which included Jammu & Kashmir, Sashastra Seema Bal and Chhattisgarh Hockey. It lost to eventual champion Petroleum Sports Promotion Board 2-0 in the quarterfinal.

Kumar was quite critical of HUTN’s policy of fielding raw college players for an event as big as the Nationals, though he was happy with the way they performed at a big stage. “Í am all for promoting youngsters, but it should not be done at the Senior Nationals. For it is a stage where you have to field your best players, and ours was not the best,” said Kumar, who had guided the State men’s team to the final twice in 1996-97 (Bangalore) and 1997-98 (Hyderabad) categorically.

Kumar said the TN team did really well against a formidable PSPB side, which had more than a dozen former India players in its ranks. “We scored 16 goals in the tournament and conceded only two penalty corners against PSPB. Which shows that the team played well,” he said.

According to Kumar, the boys have realised, after their sojourn to Lukcnow, the amount of work they need to put for a major championship.

The Southern Railway employee had words of praise for captain Aravindhan, goalkeeper Arun Prasadh and Gnanavel who scored all the five penalty corners.

Kumar was of the firm opinion that there are lots of talent available in the State while adding that players from more institutions teams should be picked. “We have to prepare for the next nationals right now, have a panel of coaches at various age groups, spot the right talent. Otherwise we can only become a participant,” he insisted. He suggested HUTN conduct open trials and pick 30-35 players for the senior nationals.

So, will he coach the Tamil Nadu for the forthcoming MCC-Murugappa All-India tournament? “I am not sure as I might be asked by my employer to coach the team,” said Kumar, who was part of the coaching panel of the Indian women’s team from 2011 to 2017 before he left the National camp in February this year after his father took ill.